Books > The American Woman's Home (1869) > XXXIV. The Care of Domestic Animals

The American Woman's Home

XXXIV. The Care of Domestic Animals.

One of the most interesting illustrations of the design of our benevolent Creator in establishing the family state is the nature of the domestic animals connected with it. At the very dawn of life, the infant watches with delight the graceful gambols of the kitten, and soon makes it a playmate. Meantime, its out-cries when hurt appeal to kindly sympathy, and its sharp claws to fear; while the child's mother has a constant opportunity to inculcate kindness and care for weak and ignorant creatures. Then the dog becomes the out-door playmate and guardian of early childhood, and he also guards himself by cries of pain, and protects himself by his teeth. At the same time, his faithful loving nature and caresses awaken corresponding tenderness and care; while the parent again has a daily opportunity to inculcate these virtues toward the helpless and dependent. As the child increases in knowledge and reason, the horse, cows, poultry, and other domestic animals come under his notice. These do not ordinarily express their hunger or other sufferings by cries of distress, but depend more on the developed reason and humanity of man. And here the parent is called upon to instruct a child in the nature and wants of each, that he may intelligently provide for their sustenance and for their protection from injury and disease.

To assist in this important duty of home life, which so often falls to the supervision of woman, the following information is prepared through the kindness of one of the editors of a prominent, widely known, agricultural paper.

Domestic animals are very apt to catch the spirit and temper of their masters. A surly man will be very likely to have a cross dog and a biting horse. A passionate man will keep all his animals in moral fear of him, making them, snappish, and liable to hurt those of whom they are not afraid.

It is, therefore, most important that all animals should be treated uniformly with kindness. They are all capable of returning affection, and will show it very pleasantly if we manifest affection for them. They also have intuitive perceptions of our emotions which we can not conceal. A sharp, ugly dog will rarely bite a person who has no fear of him. A horse knows the moment a man mounts or takes the reins whether he is afraid or not; and so it is with other animals.

If live stock can not be well fed, they ought not to be kept. One well wintered horse is worth as much, as two that drag through on straw, and by browsing the hedgerows. The same is true of oxen, and emphatically so of cows. The owner of a half-starved dog loses the use of him almost altogether; for, at the very time—the night—when lie is most needed as a guard, he must be off scouring the country for food.

Shelter in winter is most important for cows. They should have good tight stables or byres, well ventilated, and so warm that water in a pail will only freeze a little on the top the severest nights. Oxen should have the same stabling, though they bear cold better. Horses in stables will bear almost any degree of cold, if they have all they can eat. Sheep, except young lambs, are well enough sheltered in dry sheds, with one end open. Cattle, sheep, and dogs do not sweat as horses do, they "loll;" that is, water or slobber runs from their tongues; hence, they are not liable to take cold as the horse is. Hogs bear cold pretty well; but they eat enough to convince any one that true economy lies in giving them warm sties in winter, for the colder they are the more they eat. Fowls will not lay in cold weather unless they have light and warm quarters.

Cleanliness is indispensable, if one would keep his animals healthy. In their wild state all our domestic animals are very clean, and, at the same time, very healthy. The hog is not naturally a dirty animal, but quite the reverse. He enjoys currying as much as a horse or a cow, and would be as careful of his litter as a cat if he had a fair chance. Horses ought to be groomed daily; cows and oxen as often as twice a week; dogs should be washed with soapsuds frequently. Stables should be cleaned out daily. Absorbents of liquid in stables should be removed as often as they become wet. Dry earth is one of the best absorbents, and is especially useful in the fowl-house. Hogs in pens should have straw for their rests or lairs, and it should be often renewed.

Parasitic Vermin.—These are lice, fleas, ticks, the scale insects, and other pests which afflict our live stock. There are many ways of destroying them; the best and safest is a free use of carbolic acid soap. The larger animals, as well as hogs, dogs, and sheep may be washed in strong suds of this soap, without fear, and the application repeated after a week. This generally destroys both the creatures and their eggs. Hen lice are best destroyed by greasing the fowls, and dusting them with flowers of sulphur. Sitting hens must never be greased, but the sulphur may be dusted freely in their nests, and it is well to put it in all hens' nests.

Salt and Water.—All animals except poultry require salt, and all, free supplies of fresh water.

Light.—Stables, or places where any kind of animals are confined, should have plenty of light. Windows are not more important in a house than in a barn. The sun should come in freely; and if it shines directly upon the stock, all the better. When beeves and sheep are fattening very rapidly, the exclusion of the light makes them more quiet, and fatten faster; but their state is an unnatural and hardly a healthy one.

Exercise in the open air is important for breeding animals. It is especially necessary for horses of all kinds. Cows need very little and swine none, unless kept for breeding.

Breeding.—Always use thorough-bred males, and improvement is certain.


The care which horses require varies with the circumstances in which the owner is placed, and the uses to which they are put. In general, if kept stabled, they should be fed with good upland hay, almost as much as they will eat; and if absent from the stable, and at work most of the day, they should have all they will eat of hay, together with four to eight quarts of oats or an equal weight of other grain or meal. Barley is good for horses, and so is dry corn. Corn-meal put upon cut hay, wet and well-mixed, is good, steady feed, if not in too large quantities. Four quarts a day may be fed unmixed with other grain; but if the horse be hard worked and needs more, mix the meal with wheat bran, or linseed oil-cake meal, or use corn and oats ground together; carrots are especially wholesome. A quart of linseed oil-cake meal, daily, is an excellent occasional addition to a horse's food, when carrots can not be had. It gives a lustre to his coat, and brings the new coat of hair out in the spring. A stabled horse needs daily exercise, as much as to trot three miles. Where a horse is traveling, it is well to give him six quarts of oats in the morning, four at noon, and six at night.

Thorough grooming is indispensable to the health of horses. Especial care should be taken of the legs and fetlocks, that no dirt remain to cause that distressing disease, grease or scratches, which results from filthy fetlocks and standing in dirty stables. When a horse comes in from work on muddy roads with dirty legs, they should be immediately cleaned, the dirt brushed off, then rubbed with straw; then, if very dirty, washed clean and rubbed dry with a piece of sacking. A horse should never stand in a draught of cold air, if he can not turn and put his back to it. If sweaty or warm from work, he should be blanketed, if he is to stand a minute in the winter air. If put at once into the stable, he should be stripped and rubbed down with straw actively for five minutes or more, and then blanketed. The blanket must be removed in an hour, and the horse given water and feed, if it is the usual time. It will not hurt him to eat hay when hot, unless he be thoroughly exhausted, when all food should be withheld for a while.

It is very comforting to a tired horse, when he is too hot to drink, to sponge out his mouth with cool water. A horse should never drink when very hot, nor be turned into a yard to "cool off," even in summer, neither should he be turned out to pasture before he is quite cool.


Gentle but firm treatment will make a cow easy to milk and to handle in every way. If stabled or yarded, cows should have access to water at all times, or have it frequently offered to them. Clover hay is probably the best steady food for milk cows. Cornstalks cut up, thoroughly soaked with water for half a day, and then sprinkled with corn or oil-cake meal is perhaps unsurpassed as good winter food for milk cows. The amount of meal may vary. With plenty of oil-meal, there is little danger of feeding too much, as that is loosening to the bowels and a safe nutritious article. Corn-meal alone, in large quantities, is too heating. Roots should, if possible, form part of the diet of a milch cow, especially before and soon after calving; feed well before this period, yet not to make the cow very fat; but it is better to err in that way than to have her "come in" thin. Take the calf away from the mother as soon as it stands tip, and the separation will worry neither dam nor young. This is always best, unless the calf is to be kept with the cow. The calf will soon learn to drink its food, if two fingers be held in its mouth. Let it have all the first drawn milk for three days as soon as milked; after this, skimmed milk warmed to blood heat. Soon a little fine scalded meal may be mixed with the milk; and it will, at three to five weeks old, nibble hay and grass. It is well also to keep a box containing some dry wheat-bran and fine corn-meal mixed in the calf-pen, so that calves may take as much as they like.

In milking, put the fingers around the teat close to the bag; then firmly close the forefingers of each hand alternately, immediately squeezing with the other fingers. The forefingers prevent the milk flowing back into the bag, while the others press it out. Sit with the left knee close to the right hind leg of the cow, the head pressed against her flank, the left hand always ready to ward off a blow from her feet, which the gentlest cow may give almost without knowing it, if her tender teats be cut by long nails, or if a wart be hurt, or her bag be tender. She must be stripped dry every time she is milked, or she will dry up; and if she gives much milk, it pays to milk three times a day, as nearly eight hours apart as possible. Never stop while milking till done, as this will cause the cow to stop giving milk.

To tether a cow, tie her by one hind leg, making the rope fast above the fetlock joint, and protecting the limb with a piece of an old bootleg or similar thing. The knot must be one that will not slip; regular fetters of iron bound with leather are much better.

A cow should go unmilked two months before calving, and her milk should not be used by the family till four days after that time.


The filthy state of hog-pens is allowed on account of the amount of manure they will make by working over all sorts of vegetable matter, spoiled hay, weeds, etc., etc. This is unhealthy for the family near and also for the animal. The hog is, naturally, a cleanly animal, and if given a chance he will keep himself very neat and clean. Breeding sows should have the range of a small pasture, and be regularly fed. They need fresh water constantly, and often suffer for lack of it when they have liquid swill, which they do not like to drink. All hogs should have a warm, dry, well-littered pen to lie in, away from flies and disturbance of any kind. They are fond of charcoal, and it is worth while frequently to throw a few handfuls where they can get at it. It has a very beneficial effect on the appetite, regulates the tone of the stomach and digestive organs, and can not do any harm. Pigs ought always to be well fed and kept growing fast; and when being fattened, they should be penned always, the herd being sorted so that all may have an equal chance. It is well to feed soft corn in the ear; but hard corn should always be ground and cooked for pigs.


In the winter, sheep need deep, well-littered, dry sheds, dry yards, and hay, wheat, or oat straw, as much as they will eat. They should be kept gaining by grain regularly fed to them, and so distributed that each gets its share. Corn, either whole or ground, or oil-cake meal, or both, are used for fattening sheep. They will easily surfeit themselves on any grain except oil-meal, which is very safe feed for them, and usually economical. Strong sheep will often drive the weaker ones away, and so get more than their share of food and make themselves sick. This must be guarded against, and the flock sorted, keeping the weaker and stronger apart.

Sheep are very useful in clearing land of brush and certain weeds, which they gnaw down, and kill. To accomplish this, the land must be overstocked, and it is best not to keep sheep on short pasturage more than a few weeks at a time; but if they are returned after a few days, it will serve as good a purpose as if they were to be kept on all the time. Sheep at pasture must be restrained by good fences, or they will be a great nuisance. Dog-proof hedge fences of Osage orange are to be highly recommended, wherever this plant will grow. Mutton sheep will generally pay better to raise than merinos, but they need more care.


Few objects of labor are more remunerative than poultry, raised on a moderate scale. Turkeys, when young, need great care; some animal food, dry, warm quarters, and must be kept out of the wet grass, and kept in when it rains. As soon as fledged, they become very hardy, and, with free range, will almost take care of themselves. Geese need water and good grass pasture. Ducks do very well without water to swim in, if they have all they need to drink. They will lay a great many eggs if kept shut in a pen until say eight o'clock in the morning. If let out earlier, they wander away, and will hide their nests, and lay only about as many eggs as they can cover. It is best to set duck's eggs under hens, and to keep young ducks shut up in a dry roomy pen for four weeks, at least. Fowls need light, warm, dry quarters in winter, plenty of feed, but not too much. They relish animal food, and ought to have some frequently to make them lay. Pork or beef scrap-cake can be bought for two to three cents a pound, and is very good for them. Any kind of grain is good for poultry. Nothing is better than wheat screenings. Early hatched chickens must be kept in a warm, dry, sunny room, with plenty of gravel, and the hen should have no more than eight or nine chickens to brood; though in summer, one hen will take good care of fifteen. Little, chickens, turkeys, and ducks need frequent feeding, and must have their water changed often. It is well to grease the body of the hen and the heads of the chicks with lard, in order to prevent their becoming lousy.

Hens set about twenty days, and should be well fed and watered. Cold or damp weather is bad for young fowls, and when they have been chilled, pepper-corns are a good remedy, in addition to the warmth of an inclosed dry place.

The most absorbing part of the "Woman's question" of the present time is the remedy for the varied sufferings of women who are widows or unmarried, and without means of support. As yet, few are aware how many sources of lucrative enterprise and industry lie open to woman in the employments directly connected with the family state. A woman can invest capital in the dairy and qualify herself to superintend a dairy farm as well as a man. And if she has no capital of her own, if well trained for this business, she can find those who have capital ready to furnish—an investment that well managed will become profitable. And, too, the raising of poultry, of dogs, and of sheep are all within the reach of a woman with proper abilities and training for this business. So that if a woman chooses, she can find employment both interesting and profitable in studying the care of domestic animals.


But one of the most profitable as well as interesting kinds of business for a woman is the care of bees. In a recent agricultural report, it is stated that one lady bought four hives for ten dollars, and in five years she was offered one thousand five hundred dollars for her stock, and refused it as not enough. In addition to this increase of her capital, in one of these five years she sold twenty-two hives and four hundred and twenty pounds of honey. It is also stated that in five years one man, from six colonies of bees to start with, cleared eight thousand pounds of honey and one hundred and fifty-four colonies of bees.

The raising of bees and their management is so curious and as yet unknown an art in most parts of our country, that any directions or advice will be omitted in this volume, as requiring too much space, and largely set forth and illustrated in the second part. When properly instructed, almost any woman in the city, as easily as in the country, can manage bees, and make more profit than in any other method demanding so little time and labor. But in the modes ordinarily practiced, few can make any great profit in this employment.

It is hoped a time is at hand when every woman will be trained to some employment by which she can secure to herself an independent home and means to support a family, in case she does not marry, or is left a widow, with herself and a family to support.